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Publication numberUS6145533 A
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 09/288,858
Publication dateNov 14, 2000
Filing dateApr 9, 1999
Priority dateMar 31, 1997
Fee statusPaid
Publication number09288858, 288858, US 6145533 A, US 6145533A, US-A-6145533, US6145533 A, US6145533A
InventorsLee A. Perkins
Original AssigneeNelson Irrigation Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Air release valve
US 6145533 A
Abstract
An air release valve comprising a housing having a fluid inlet and a fluid outlet, a valve plate within the housing between the inlet and outlet, the valve plate having a pair of apertures; a valve seal assembly including a seal engageable with the valve plate overlying the apertures; a float located in the housing upstream of the valve plate and connected to the seal, the float displaceable between first and second positions in the housing such that displacement of the float in one direction opens the apertures, the float having a tapered end remote from the seal, the tapered end having a truncated substantially flat bottom surface and a groove extending across the flat bottom surface.
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Claims(13)
What is claimed is:
1. An air release valve comprising a housing having a fluid inlet and a fluid outlet, a valve plate within said housing between the inlet and outlet, the valve plate having a pair of apertures; a valve seal assembly including a seal engageable with said valve plate overlying said apertures; a float located in the housing upstream of the valve plate and connected to the seal, said float displaceable between first and second positions in said housing such that displacement of the float in one direction opens said apertures, said float having a tapered end remote from the seal, said tapered end having a truncated substantially flat bottom surface and a groove extending across said flat bottom surface.
2. The air release valve of claim 1 wherein said fluid inlet is configured as a nozzle.
3. The air release valve of claim 2 wherein, when the float is in said second position, said flat bottom surface and said groove are adjacent but axially spaced downstream of said nozzle.
4. The valve of claim 1 wherein said housing is round and said float is generally square in cross section.
5. The air release valve of claim 1 wherein said valve seal assembly includes a flexible portion engageable over a first of said pair of apertures and a substantially rigid portion engageable over a second of said pair of apertures.
6. The air release valve of claim 5 wherein said substantially rigid portion comprises a steel plate embedded within said seal.
7. The air release valve of claim 1 and further wherein said housing has a plurality of longitudinally extending ribs that guide the movement of the float between its first and second positions.
8. An air release valve comprising a housing having a fluid inlet and a fluid outlet, a float mounted for reciprocal axial movement in said housing, said float having a tapered but truncated bottom; a flexible seal assembly operatively connected at one end thereof to said float; a valve plate having at least two apertures therein, said seal assembly including a flexible seal portion and a relatively rigid seal portion; said float and said fluid inlet having means for preventing said seal from closing said apertures below a predetermined air pressure, and for equalizing pressure across the bottom of the float.
9. An air release valve comprising a housing having a fluid inlet and a fluid outlet, a valve plate within said housing between the inlet and outlet, the valve plate having an opening therein; a valve seal assembly including a seal engageable with said valve plate overlying said opening; a float located in the housing upstream of the valve plate and connected to the seal, said float displaceable between first and second positions in said housing such that displacement of the float in one direction causes said seal to at least partially disengage from said opening, said float having a tapered end remote from the seal, said tapered end having a truncated substantially flat bottom surface and a groove extending across said flat bottom surface.
10. The air release valve of claim 9 wherein said fluid inlet is configured as a nozzle.
11. The air release valve of claim 10 wherein, when the float is in said second position, said flat bottom surface and said groove are adjacent but axially spaced downstream of said nozzle.
12. The valve of claim 9 wherein said housing is round and said float is generally square in cross section.
13. The air release valve of claim 9 and further wherein said housing has a plurality of longitudinally extending ribs that guide the movement of the float between its first and second positions.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 08/909,102 filed Aug. 12, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,957,150, which is a continuation-in-part of Ser. No. 08/828,509 filed Mar. 31, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,794,646.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates generally to air control valves for use in irrigation systems, and particularly to those valves which incorporate an air release or purge mechanism for removing air from a water pipe on start-up and during normal flow conditions, and which provide vacuum relief when the pipe is drained.

BACKGROUND

Fluid flow valves which include air release or air purge features are well known. These valves are generally located within liquid conduits and are designed to insure the release of air or other gases to avoid air locks which otherwise interfere with the flow of liquid through the conduit.

One known air purge valve construction is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,770,201. In that patent, a valve is provided which includes a housing having a defined fluid throughflow aperture, a valve seat formed in the housing and bounding the aperture; and a flexible closure membrane or diaphragm secured at one end of the housing and adapted to be biased under fluid pressure against the valve seat so as to seal the aperture. The other end of the diaphragm is connected to a float in the housing so that movement in one direction results in progressive detachment of the membrane from the valve seat so as to open the aperture. Movement of the float in an opposite direction allows the membrane to become sealingly biased against the valve seat.

In some of the known air purge type valves, it has been found that the valves tend to be "blown" closed by the velocity of the air escaping through the valve, thus significantly reducing their effectiveness. Attempts have been made to address this problem by designing floats with low aerodynamic drag coefficients. This change has been only partially successful in that the valves still tend to be blown closed at relatively low pressure differential across the valve (for example, less than 10 p.s.i.). Another approach has been to place a shield in the valve to direct the air around the float. Again, while this has been somewhat successful, the valve still blows closed when the pressure differential across the valve exceeds approximately 14 p.s.i. Moreover, additional components are required to implement this solution, thus increasing cost and complexity.

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with an exemplary embodiment of this invention, an air release valve is provided which substantially overcomes the above stated problem in prior air release valves. In this invention, the air release valve includes a valve housing or riser adapted to be coupled to a fluid conduit. The housing includes an upstanding, substantially vertical portion and at least one 90 housing. At the elbow, there is located a valve orifice plate arranged at an angle of about 45 elbow upwardly to the outside corner of the elbow. The plate has a pair of separate apertures, a small slit-like aperture for continuous release of air, and a larger rectangular aperture for vacuum and start-up air release.

A seal assembly is provided for sealing the apertures in the valve plate, the seal assembly connected at one end to the lowermost end of the valve plate, and at its opposite end to a float device mounted for vertical movement within the housing, upstream of the valve plate. The seal assembly includes a rubber plate which is adapted to cover both openings or apertures in the valve plate, with a narrow, flexible tongue-like portion for covering the smaller slit-like aperture and a larger, reinforced rectangular portion for covering the larger aperture. The larger portion of the seal plate is reinforced by a steel insert molded within the rubber plate. As a result, the flexible tongue-like portion of the seal peels away from the slit-like aperture as the float descends within the housing, while the reinforced portion of the seal simply pivots away from the larger aperture.

The float itself has a generally square cross-section, cooperating with longitudinal ribs on the interior wall of the round housing to minimize friction, prevent rotation of the float, and to maximize the space between the float and the housing. The lower portion of the float is also provided with a tapered end (about 60 cooperates with the valve inlet geometry of the housing which is provided with about a 20 expansion similar to a truncated Laval nozzle, as explained further herein.

The 20 proved to be optimal for this particular valve configuration, but other combinations could be found that would work well with different valve designs.

In a preferred variation of the float, it has been found that a modified float improves the reliability of the valve in demanding installations. Specifically, the tapered end of the float has been truncated so that it no longer extends into the tapered inlet section of the valve. The now flat bottom blends into the remaining tapered portion of the float with smooth radii. This embodiment retains resistance to being blown closed while greatly improving the reliability of closure in high velocity system filling conditions.

In accordance with this continuation-in-part application, it has been discovered that under certain flow conditions, it is possible to develop a venturi-like effect in the inlet region of the valve. This venturi can be strong enough to hold the float down and prevent it from rising and closing the valve. When this occurs, the valve is stuck in the open position and allows the discharge of a high volume of water. It has now been determined that the low pressure region on the bottom of the float can be eliminated, or at least reduced to a level that does not cause problems, by putting a slot in the bottom of the float. This slot provides a passage from the higher pressure region near the periphery of the valve to the low pressure region in the center, and allows the pressure to equalize and enable the float to rise and close the valve. At the same time, this does not appear to have any negative effect on the blow closed resistance of the valve as would other potential solutions that would increase the float drag.

Accordingly, the present invention relates to an air release valve comprising a housing having a fluid inlet and a fluid outlet, a valve plate within the housing between the inlet and outlet, the valve plate having a pair of apertures; a valve seal assembly including a seal engageable with the valve plate overlying the apertures; a float located in the housing upstream of the valve plate and connected to the seal, the float displaceable between first and second positions in the housing such that displacement of the float in one direction opens the apertures, the float having a tapered end remote from the seal, the tapered end having a truncated substantially flat bottom surface and a groove extending across the flat bottom surface.

Other objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the detailed description which follows.

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1, the air release valve 10 includes a base 12 which includes an inlet 14 having an expansion portion 16, a tapered seat portion 18 and a smooth internal, cylindrical portion 20. Downstream of cylindrical portion 20 is a radial shoulder 22 and an upstanding, interiorly threaded connector portion 24. The connector portion 24 threadably receives the lower cylindrical end 26 of a valve housing 28. This end 26 is exteriorly threaded for mating threaded engagement with the connector portion 24 of the base 12, such that the lower edge of the housing abuts the radial shoulder 22, with an annular O-ring 30 sealing the joint interface.

The housing 26 extends vertically upwardly to a 90 in turn, connects to a second outlet elbow 34 including an outlet opening 36. The outlet 36 includes a protective screen 37 (FIG. 5) which keeps debris and pests from the operating components of the valve. At the upper end of the housing within the first elbow 32, there is an internal valve orifice plate 38 (see also FIG. 4) is formed with a pair of discrete apertures 40, 42. Aperture 40 comprises a relatively small slit (see FIG. 4), while aperture 42 is in the form of a relatively large rectangular opening. The valve plate 38 extends angularly across the flow path, at about a 45 an outside corner of the elbow. The openings 40, 42 are isolated from each other, i.e., one does not directly communicate with the other, as best seen in FIG. 4.

A seal assembly 44 is configured to cover the apertures 40, 42 when the valve is closed. The seal assembly 44 comprises essentially a one-piece rubber body or plate with a steel insert as further described below. The sealing portion is "outlined" by a raised bead 46 which defines a larger rectangular seal portion 48 and a narrow tongue-like seal portion 50, adapted to cover apertures 42, 40, respectively. The rectangular portion 48 is reinforced by a rigid stainless steel plate 52 which is embedded within the rubber body, i.e., the plate is placed in the seal assembly mold and the rubber body is formed about the plate.

A housing mounting flange 54 extends from one side of the rectangular portion 48 remote from the tongue portion 50. This flange mounts the seal assembly 44 to the interior of the housing 28, adjacent the lower end of the valve orifice plate 38. The curved free end 56 of the flange 54 is captured there by a curved retainer plate 58 slidably mounted in the housing 26 between vertically extending ribs 60, 62 (see FIG. 2). The remaining portion 64 of the flange 54 serves as a hinge for the seal portions 48, 50 as described further below (see also FIG. 6). Note that the curvature of the plate 58 may be slightly larger than the curvature of the housing so that the plate 58 will be retained between the ribs 60, 62 in the desired vertical location by friction. Extending in the opposite direction from flange 54 is a float mounting strap or web 66, and note that the tongue portion 50 of the seal extends into this web area, as best seen in FIGS. 3 and 3A. Strap portion 66 is of reduced thickness throughout most of its length, with a thickened portion beginning at edge 68 and extending to a transverse "pin" 70.

The latter is formed with enlarged end portions 72, 74 separated by a smaller diameter portion 76. The "pin" may be slidably inserted in a slot 78 formed across the top of the float 80 (from left to right as viewed in FIG. 2), so that the smaller of the enlarged ends can be pushed past the reduced diameter neck 82 and snapped into place as shown in FIG. 2. In this way, the thickened portion of strap 66 is effectively captured in the slot 78. The seal assembly is thus movable between open and closed positions vis-a-vis valve plate 38 in response to movement of the float 80.

The float 80 is substantially square in cross section as best seen in FIG. 3, but with a pair of beveled edges 84, 86. The lower part 88 of the float has an inverted pyramid shape, extending to a lowermost point 90. The sides of the pyramid taper inwardly and define included angles of about 60

The upper part of the float body is curved at one side 92, and has a flat truncated surface 94 on the opposite side, surface 94 adjacent and substantially parallel to the valve plate 38.

Vertical ribs 96, 98 are formed on the interior wall of the housing 26 across from the retaining ribs 60, 62. Ribs 96, 98 (in combination with the corners of the float opposite edges 84, 86) prevent rotation of the float within the housing 28 with minimal surface contact.

In use, and prior to the introduction of liquid into the conduit to which the valve 10 is secured (with the conduit running substantially perpendicular to the housing 28), the conduit as well as the valve 10 are filled with air. Under this condition, the float 80 is in its lowermost position as shown in dotted lines in FIG. 1, and with the apertures 40, 42 fully open. As water begins to flow through the conduit, the housing 28 will begin to fill with water, expelling air through the apertures, and causing the float 80 to rise. As the water level continues to rise, the float will rise only to the point where the larger opening 42 is closed by portion 48 of the seal assembly while any small amounts of air remaining in the system will escape from the smaller orifice 40. After all of the air has been removed, and with the housing 28 filled with water, the float will be at its highest position, with the seal assembly fully closing both apertures 40 and 42. During continued flow of liquid through the conduit, any small amounts of air which enter the system will rise to the top of the housing 28, causing the float 80 to drop slightly with the tongue portion of the seal 50 peeling away from the aperture 40 as shown in FIG. 6. Under normal conditions, the larger orifice 42 will not be opened until the fluid pressure in the conduit drops to zero, causing the float 80 to drop to the dotted line configuration in FIG. 1, with the rigid seal portion 48 pivoting away from the larger aperture 42, thus drawing air into the system to provide vacuum relief. It is therefore important that the overall weight of the float and its specific gravity be adjusted to operate within an expected pressure range for the fluid within the conduit.

In accordance with this invention, the square shape of float 80 and the associated vertical ribs 96, 98 on the interior of the housing 28 prevent rotation of the float 80 and minimize surface friction between the housing and the float during movement of the latter. In other words, contact between the float 80 and the housing 28 is limited to point or line contact rather than to broad surface contact. Thus, areas where sediment may collect and cause the float to jam are eliminated. Further in this regard, the substantially square shape of the float 80 maximizes the area between the float and the housing that is available to pass both water and air.

While the preferred float cross section is square, other shapes may be employed as well. For example, FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate the use of floats 80, and 802, respectively, arranged generally concentrically within housings 28, and 282. The float 80, is formed with four radially outwardly directed ribs 81 which minimize friction contact with the interior wall of the housing. At the same time, internal ribs 83 formed on the internal housing wall interact with two of the ribs 81 on the float to prevent rotation of the float within the housing.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 8, three ribs 85 on the float minimize friction with the housing wall while the two ribs 85 which are diametrically opposed also interact with ribs 87 on the internal housing wall to prevent rotation of the float within the housing.

Turning now to FIG. 9, the float 803 has a cross sectional shape similar to that of an I-beam. In this embodiment, the longitudinal side edges 89 of the float minimize frictional contact with the internal housing wall while surfaces 91 of the float interact with internal ribs 93 of the housing to prevent rotation of the float within the housing. It will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art that other cross sectional shapes for the float along with cooperating structure on the internal wall of the housing may be employed to achieve the same purposes.

Returning to FIG. 1, the float design and the design of the inlet 14 is also significant in that it prevents the valve from being blown closed by the velocity of the air escaping through the valve orifice plate 38 and outlet 36. Thus, by adding the 60 of the square float 80, and by incorporating a valve inlet geometry which includes the 20 similar to a truncated Laval nozzle is simulated. A truncated nozzle is often used to regulate air flow. Specifically, a shock wave is formed across the throat of the "nozzle" or inlet 14 and chokes the nozzle. As the pressure differential across the inlet increases beyond the critical ratio, the mass flow of air remains the same. In this instance, the float 80 is positioned such that the tapered end 88 extends into the throat of the tapered inlet 14 when the valve is in its open position. While it has not been confirmed, it is believed that shock waves are also shed off the tapered end 88 of the float 80 when it is extended into the critical flow area of the inlet. This causes a low pressure region on the bottom of the float while a higher pressure region exists on the upper regions of the float. The net result is a downward force on the float 80 that tends to keep the seal assembly from being blown to a closed position, sealing the apertures 40, 42. In the embodiment illustrated herein, the valve is not blown closed until the pressure differential across the valve exceeds approximately 22 p.s.i. It should also be noted in this regard, that while either the tapered float or the tapered inlet by themselves provide some improvement in performance, significant improvements are not obtained unless both features are combined.

Further, while the 20 tapered float combination prove to be optimal for this particular valve configuration, other combinations may be equally viable with different valve designs.

With reference now to FIGS. 10 and 11, a further and improved embodiment of the invention is illustrated. Reference numerals similar to those used in conjunction with FIGS. 1-6, but with a prefix "1" added, have been employed to indicate corresponding components. In this improved embodiment, the float 180 has been modified so that the tapered lower part 188 is truncated to include a flat bottom 189 which merges with the tapered side walls of the bottom portion of the float at radiused corners. A preferred radius is 0.20 inch but other radii may be employed for valves having different dimensions or valves used for different applications. The degree of taper in the remaining portions of the side walls remains at about 60

As seen in the dotted line configuration in FIG. 10, the float does not extend into the tapered inlet 114 when the float is in its lowermost position. Rather, the flat bottom 189 of the float extends only through the tapered seat 118 and partially into the expansion portion 116. It has been determined that this arrangement retains the resistance to being blown closed as in the earlier described embodiments, while at the same time greatly improves the reliability of closure in high velocity system filling conditions. There may be applications, however, where it is desirable to have the truncated lower end of the float as illustrated in FIG. 10 extend into the tapered inlet 114 and therefore, the invention in accordance with this continuation-in-part application is not necessarily limited to the arrangement illustrated in FIG. 10.

With reference now to FIGS. 12 and 13, a further and improved float configuration is illustrated. Reference numerals similar to those used in conjunction with FIGS. 10 and 11, but with the prefix "2" added, have been employed to indicate corresponding float components. In this improved float configuration, the float 280 has been modified to include a groove 99 which extends across the flat bottom 289 of the tapered lower part 288 of the float 280. The groove has a rectangular profile or channel shape, opening along the flat bottom 189. In a preferred arrangement, the groove has a depth of 0.155 plus or minus 0.015 inch, and a width of 0.20 inch. It can also be seen from FIGS. 12 and 13 that the groove 99 extends substantially parallel to the slot 278 formed across the top of the float 280.

The float as it appears in FIGS. 12 and 13 operates within the valve housing in a manner similar to that described with respect to FIGS. 10 and 11, but also alleviates the problem discussed above when venturi-like effects are developed in the inlet region of the valve. The slot or groove 99 thus provides a passage from a higher pressure region near the periphery of the valve to a lower pressure region in the center, equalizing the pressure and allowing the float 280 to rise and close the valve.

While the invention has been described in connection with what is presently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the disclosed embodiment, but on the contrary, is intended to cover various modifications and equivalent arrangements included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side elevation, partly in section, illustrating an air release valve in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a bottom plan view of the air release valve shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an elevation, partly in section, of a seal valve assembly and float incorporated in the air release valve shown in FIG. 1, and illustrating the manner of assembly of the seal valve to the float;

FIG. 3A is a side elevation of the seal assembly component;

FIG. 3B is an enlarged detail taken from FIG. 3B;

FIG. 4 is a front elevation of the valve orifice plate used in the air release valve shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a partial elevation, partly in section, illustrating the seal valve assembly in a partly open condition;

FIG. 6 is a partial section similar to FIG. 1 but illustrating the manner in which the seal begins to open when air enters the valve;

FIGS. 7-9 illustrate various cross sectional shapes for the float member and corresponding elements on the housing which minimize friction between the float and the housing and which prevent rotation of the float in accordance with alternative embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 10 is a side elevation, partly in section, illustrating a preferred embodiment of the air release valve;

FIG. 11 is a bottom plan view of the air release valve shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is an end elevation of a modified float in accordance with the invention; and

FIG. 13 is a side elevation of the float illustrated in FIG. 12.

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Referenced by
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US7013907Jun 30, 2003Mar 21, 2006A.R.I. Flow Control Accessories Agricultural Cooperative Association Ltd.Gas purge valve
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WO2009007947A1Jun 26, 2008Jan 15, 2009A R I Flow Control AccessoriesFluid flow valve
Classifications
U.S. Classification137/202, 251/901
International ClassificationF16K24/04
Cooperative ClassificationY10S251/901, F16K24/048
European ClassificationF16K24/04B2
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 24, 2012FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 12
Apr 23, 2008FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 8
Apr 27, 2004FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Jul 1, 1999ASAssignment
Owner name: NELSON IRRIGATION CORPORATION, WASHINGTON
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:PERKINS, LEE A.;REEL/FRAME:010065/0728
Effective date: 19990614